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Golden opportunity for green Britain

The UK’s first ever National Infrastructure Assessment was published this week by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The Assessment has analysed the UK’s long term infrastructure needs up to 2050, and makes recommendations for meeting them, covering issues such as transport, water, digital technologies, waste and energy. It also examines cross-cutting issues such as funding and financing of infrastructure.

The National Infrastructure Commission was established in 2015, to provide independent and robust advice on the delivery of infrastructure in the UK. The publication of this report is a watershed moment in UK infrastructure; the delivery of this infrastructure is crucial to developing the UK for the future and ensure a truly long-term plan which capitalises on new technologies and prepares for future risk.

The National Infrastructure Assessment is the first in the Commission’s publications, which will be updated every five years, looking ahead to 2050.

Sir John Armitt CBE, chair of the NIC, said: “Whether it’s electric or driverless cars, new energy sources, tackling the risk of climate change or preparing for the newest and fastest broadband speeds, the issues we’ve been considering profoundly affect people’s everyday lives.

“The whole purpose of the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment is to think beyond the technologies of today and to ensure we can make the most of future innovations. It’s why it’s not just a one-off but something we will be repeating every five years to ensure we remain on the front foot.

“This is not some unaffordable wish-list of projects: it sets a clear direction for how to meet the country’s future infrastructure needs, and makes a realistic assessment of what can and should be delivered within the stated aim of Ministers for steady and continued investment over the coming years.

“I therefore look forward to the Government’s response to our report, and seeing how our recommendations can become reality.”

The key finding from the report is that we have a unique opportunity to develop Green Britain; providing cleaner and cheaper energy to Britain’s homes and businesses.

There is (or has been) a general assumption that making the change towards greener resources would adversely affect customers, costing more to make the switch. However, the Commission has found that making this switch towards low-carbon and renewable sources for both the country’s power and heating, combined with a move towards electric vehicles, would mean the customer of 2050 would pay the same in real terms for their energy as today.

Sir John said: “Whether for cooking, lighting, keeping homes warm or electric cars on the road, where the UK’s energy comes from will need to change radically over the coming decades if the UK is to meet its legally-binding climate change targets.

“If we act now we have a golden opportunity to make our country greener, and protect the money in the pockets of consumers long into the future – something few of us expected to be able to do.

“Ministers can seize this chance by investing in renewables and other low-carbon technologies so they become the main players in our energy system – something that was considered a pipedream as little as a decade ago. But they need to act now to realise the full potential of what can be achieved.”

Currently, around 30% of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources like wind and solar power. Renewable energy has been responsible for providing more and more days of uninterrupted green electrical supply to the UK this year. This week’s report recommends the government take steps to increase this to 50% by 2030.

Hand in hand with this recommendation, the Commission also advises that some £3.8Bn needs to be invested in the country’s council housing stock to improve energy efficiencies. While house building must look towards new, efficient ways of building – such as offsite.

As the country also starts the switch to electric vehicles, provision must be made to support that and deliver a national road network of electric charging points. The Commission also advises to take into account the rise of connected and autonomous vehicles.

With flooding becoming a bigger problem as weather becomes more extreme, the Commission has asked the Government to put in place a long-term strategy to deliver a nationwide standard of flood resilience by 2050 with funding for flood risk management increasing significantly over the coming decades.

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